22 May 2001
Property from the Estate of William John Upjohn
WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). The Importance of Being Earnest. A Trivial Comedy for Serious People. By the Author of Lady Windermere's Fan. London: Leonard Smithers and Co., 1889.
4o. Half-title (verso with inscription). Original publisher's vellum, covers each ornamented with five gilt feather tools arranged vertically at edges (tow on one side, three on the other), spine gilt-lettered and with two additional gilt feather tools, uncut. (Minute dent to top of spine.) Quarter green morocco padded folding case.
FIRST EDITION, LIMITED ISSUE, ONE OF ONLY TWELVE LARGE-PAPER COPIES ON JAPAN VELLUM (this copy number 2) BOLDLY SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR ("Oscar Wilde," with long flourish) at the limitation page, which follows the list of characters. (The edition also included 100 large-paper copies on Van Gelder, signed, plus 1000 ordinary paper issues, numbered but unsigned). PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed in the month of publication on blank page facing title: "To Edward Strangman from the author, in sincere friendship Oscar Wilde Feb. '99."
The very rare Japan vellum issue of the most enduringly popular of Wilde's comedies, dedicated to his friend and later literary executor Robert Ross. Presumably, the twelve special copies were all intended to be author's presentation copies; Mason records five of these, not including the present one, and illustrates the inscription to Ross in the dedication copy. The Irish-born Edward Strangman, to whom this copy is inscribed, had attended Oxford some years after Wilde attended and practiced law in the Middle Temple from 1898. He and William Rothenstein visited Wilde at Barneval-sur-Mer in June 1897; Wilde described him "a charming sweet fellow," and praised his idea of translating Lady Windermere's Fan. Mason 383.
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